When you ask a layman what’s cricket? ‘An outdoor sport played with the wooden bat and a leather ball,’ is the definition you will be told most of the times. However, if you say the same question to someone in Kashmir, the most likely answer will be: “An outdoor sport played on a matting surface with each team playing 20 overs to conquer the match and hence the tournament.”
Well, most of us in Kashmir might settle with this answer and ask nothing beyond. But in case the question is asked by non-native, there must be an explanation, which could sound like this,
“A group of known people who might or might not have ever touched the cricket kit assemble and make a Facebook post, invite teams and players to play in what they call ‘Super, Mega, Brand… T20 Premier League.’ Then these teams and players come and handover the hefty amount of money to them, ensuring their participation. Once this thing is done, these teams face each other in a ground, which is most of the times as big as a backyard of any normal house. Interestingly, if a team loses, its eliminated from the tournament while the winning one qualifies for an ‘unknown’ round. After months of this thing, finally, a final is played wherein the winning team gets trophies or some bucks while runners-up side is handed slight low-sized medals.”
This might shock most of those who know what actually cricket is but this is exactly how this gentlemen’s game commences in Kashmir. Despite being a victim of numerous troubles, a cricket lover lives in almost every house of Valley. However, lately, the game has become a business with people playing with the emotions of die-hard cricket enthusiasts.
Nowadays everyone is organising a cricket tournament here, though how fruitful it remains for game and players is a mystery whose reality is known to everyone but nobody is ready to reveal. Both senior are junior cricketers of Kashmir are anguished by this ‘disgusting’ set-up, however, left with no choices but the hope of witnessing a change. Since these leagues are T20-based and played on matting wickets, players feel it is the main reason for the state’s dismal performances at the highest level.
The Jammu and Kashmir Cricket Association, which is affiliated with BCCI since last more than five decades haven’t been able to lay down even a single turf wicket else than that of Sher-e-Kashmir Stadium, which too remains active for a month or two in a year.
To know what these T20 matting leagues bring to cricket and cricketers of Kashmir, and what management should come up with, KSW reached to some of the ace players of Kashmir to know the answer.
The experienced campaigner who is presently part of J&K’s senior side, Mohammed Mudasir explained these tournaments this way:
“These organisers are not promoting the game but doing business in the name of cricket. Neither they prepare grounds nor the tracks. They just don’t care about cricket and cricketers of Kashmir.”
When asked why the professional cricketers play in these tournaments? He responded,
“Since there are no turf wickets and longer-version games, cricketers have no choice but to play these tournaments to remain in touch”
The pacer also suggested a step which could help the cricketers,
“JKCA must come up with something that keeps players engaged throughout the year.”
Ahmad Banday who has been regular for J&K in almost all the three formats remarked:
“Matting cricket especially T20 is absolutely useless. Efforts should be made to produce turf cricket which would help us make better players at the grass root level.”
Having excelled for J&K at senior level for the last couple of seasons, Owais Shah also took a dig at these organisers,
“Usually, these leagues are organized by non Cricketers. They don’t know the Abc of cricket, the only thing that matters to them is money.”
“After taking the hefty amount, they don’t even prepare an even-surfaced wicket.”
He also thrusted on the need of organising longer-format cricket,
“Those days are gone when we cricketers wore that white uniform and played 50 over games. Now it’s just about T20.” He said.
Another senior pro, Imran Haroon, suggested that even adding the number of overs could help,
“Until we don’t find ways to get out of this matting T20 cricket, the things can’t settle in Kashmir.
When our tournament organisers can arrange artefacts to arrange the mega auctions and others thing, why not take a step to build a turf. If nothing, they can at least try and play 40-50 over tournaments instead.” He explained.
The youngster, Haziq Bhat, who is presently in Delhi just to play the longer-version and quality turf-cricket termed the leagues in Kashmir, the waste of time and money:
“It is a waste of time and money. Matting cricket in Kashmir is ruining the young cricketers and if we want to play at a higher level we need to focus on quality cricket, not quantity which we will get from turf wickets and other basic facilities.”
“In Kashmir, we lack all the basic facilities. So it’s a request to JKCA to produce quality cricket not quantity.”